Thursday, August 11, 2005

Marty Myers, theater manager for Kennedy Theatre at UH-Manoa, looks over a railing covered with a fuzzy blanket of mold. After the air conditioning was shut off in the theater for a period of time, an explosion of mold sprouted inside.

Mold stops
the show

Darkening of UH's
Kennedy Theatre leaves
students 'heartbroken'

An extensive mold infestation in Kennedy Theatre has forced the cancellation of a children's play that had been scheduled as the season opener for the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Department of Theatre and Dance.

Green, fuzzy splotches of mold cover the walls, carpets and some seats inside the 660-seat main theater at UH-Manoa.

"We're pretty much heartbroken about it," said Frank Katasse, an undergraduate student who had been cast as a shaman/narrator.

The play is based on a folk tale from the Tlingit tribe about an orphan who saves the son of a clan chief kidnapped by the moon.

"I was looking forward to it, especially because it's my tribe," said Katasse, who is from Alaska.

Bids for the cleanup are scheduled to be opened today, said Emma Kennedy, of UH-Manoa's Environmental Health and Safety office. An estimate of the cleanup cost was not available.

Gregg Lizenbery, the Theatre and Dance Department chairman, said season-ticket holders and schools that were planning to bring students to the show are being notified about the cancellation.

The production had been scheduled for the end of September with rehearsals starting early next month.

A railing in Kennedy Theatre at UH-Manoa is covered with mold. The theater's closure, which will likely last for at least five weeks, means a season-opening play on the Tlingit tribe must be canceled.

University officials believe the mold started growing after the air conditioning was turned off for about a week in late June during the removal of a fire-retardant curtain containing asbestos.

The infestation was not discovered until a couple of weeks later because the theater was closed for the summer.

"It was like, 'Eww, what's that?'" Lizenbery said.

Emma Kennedy of UH-Manoa's Environmental Health and Safety office said the dark and humid conditions in the theater probably caused the mold's growth.

She said mold can trigger reactions in people who have asthma, are allergic to mold or whose immune systems are compromised.

But she said the main reason the theater is being shut down is that the cleanup will take about five weeks.

Mold cleanup is similar to asbestos removal, Kennedy said. Special vacuum cleaners and machines to clear air will be brought in, and the walls and floors will be disinfected. The carpet and seats should not have to be replaced, she said.

The cleanup should be completed in time for rehearsals to begin for the next scheduled production of the play "Battle of Will" in October.

Other areas of the Kennedy Theatre complex have been inspected and are mold-free, the university said.

Productions in the Earle Ernst Lab Theatre will proceed as scheduled. Some UH classes that use the theater will be relocated when school resumes Aug. 22.

Arrangements are being made for smaller productions to help students who needed the play to graduate with a children's-theater degree, Lizenbery said.

He said the department will lose about $25,000 from lost ticket sales. Children's plays are usually very popular, he added.

The department is hoping to produce the show as its opening production next year. But that might be too late for Katasse, who could graduate this summer.

It is also too late for Robert Wyllie, a senior, whose design for the sets with partner Ulu Mills was selected in a competition during a set design class last year.

"We worked all semester," Wyllie said. "I'm an actor. I don't usually do this kind of stuff (design sets). It was literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Kennedy Theatre

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